CHICAGO — Illinois State Sen. Tom Cullerton has been indicted on federal charges that he took benefits and salary from the Teamsters for nearly three years while doing little or no work.
Prosecutors charged Cullerton with 39 counts of embezzlement from a labor union, one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor union and one count of making false statements in a health care matter.
The indictment states that in March 2013, Cullerton was hired as a union organizer from the union he worked for prior to becoming senator. This was a full-time, salaried position that included health and pension funds. As a state senator, he was not allowed to receive those funds.
The charges allege that for the next three years, Cullerton did little or no work as an organizer, but was paid approximately $188,000 for the job, plus $64,000 in health and pension benefits and another $21,000 in reimbursed medical claims.
Arraignment has not yet been scheduled.
This comes just two days after former Teamsters boss John Coli Sr. pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to cooperate in a federal investigation. According to the indictment, Coli Sr. gave Cullerton the do-nothing job in 2013.
Governor JB Pritzker reacted to the indictment, but stopped short of calling Cullerton to step down as Senate Labor Committee Chair.
“I don’t have all the details of this, but I can say this that our elected officials should be held to a very high ethical standard,” Pritzker said. “I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated.”
Cullerton's attorney John Theis released the following statement:
"As an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army and highly respected public servant, Tom Cullerton is a person who is dedicated to his family, constituents, and all Illinoisans. The action by the U.S. Department of Justice has nothing to do with Mr. Cullerton’s work in the Illinois State Senate but is the result of false claims by disgraced Teamsters boss John Coli in an apparent attempt to avoid penalties for his wrongdoing.
These allegations are simply not true, and we will be defending the charges in court."
Cullerton, 49, is a cousin of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. A spokesman for John Cullerton provided the following statement: “This is clearly part of an ongoing investigation. The Senate President reminds everyone we have a system of justice that presumes everyone innocent until proven otherwise.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
INDICTMENT: U.S. v Tom Cullerton